With ample climbing on the menu, the 2015 Tour de...

Climb-heavy Tour route has Contador and Riis licking their chops

Former Tour champion likes what he sees in a 2015 route that is short on time trials but long on difficult climbs

For Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), the harder, the better. So the Spaniard likes what he sees in a surprising, climbing-heavy 2015 Tour de France route revealed Wednesday.

Contador, who has already confirmed he will race the Giro d’Italia in May, said the Tour route is unlike anything he’s seen before.

“It’s a Tour I like,” Contador said Wednesday. “It’s the hardest of the past few years, and it will demand the best of me to recover well after the Giro, but I will prepare for it as best I can.”

In a route packed with challenges, including a first half that includes cobblestones, punchy climbs, a short time trial, as well as a team time trial, not to mention potentially windy stages, Contador realizes the opening half of the Tour could have a huge factor before turning into the climb-heavy second half across the Pyrénées and Alps.

“The key to this first part will be to avoid losing time, as it will be in the mountains, where this particularly mountainous and demanding Tour will be decided,” Contador said. “The Pyrénées will be very important, along with Mende — a final I know well — and one that despite being short, real differences can be made.”

Contador crashed out of this year’s Tour, but bounced back to win the Vuelta a España in September. With a course ideal for Contador’s racing style, he could be tempted to alter his Giro ambitions to arrive to the Tour in top condition.

“This year, recovery will be very important, with one eye on the final week,” he continued. “The stages in the Alps will be complicated if you have to defend, but they also open up a lot of tactical possibilities if you have to attack. In general, it’s a Tour that you have to be as fresh as possible for the final week, but you also have to be strong from the start, because it’s a very demanding first week.”

Team manager Bjarne Riis was licking his chops after seeing the route confirmation. With one of the strongest teams in the peloton, Riis hopes to position Contador for a legitimate run at the yellow jersey.

“I like the route. It will be a spectacular race,” Riis said. “It’s good for us. I like it. It’s a hard course. The first week will be very demanding, and it will be a big fight for position in the first climbs. I also like the cobbles, but I hope it doesn’t rain that day.”

Riis also said the lack of time trial kilometers, which reduces the advantage of such specialists as 2013 winner Chris Froome (Sky), will be a bonus for Contador in his quest to win another Tour.

“You have to have a strong team, and the fact that there is not a long time trial is also good for us,” Riis said. “The Pyrénées and Alps are going to be spectacular.”

Riis also supported the idea of Tour officials shaking up what the race should look like. Some have already questioned the elimination of longer time trials, but Riis said it was a good idea to offer different types of courses.

“I don’t believe the Tour always has to be the same,” he said. “Just like there won’t be cobblestones every year, the same thing can happen with time trials. … We need to have a spectacular race, and I like the changes.”